Seal pup deaths prompt calls to extend fishing ban in Lake Saimaa

Four rare seal pups have been found drowned since restrictions on fishing with nets were relaxed on Monday.

A Saimaa Ringed Seal basks on a rock, in a still image taken from WWF Suomi webcam / Credit: WWF Suomi

The deaths of four endangered Saimaa ringed seal pups have prompted calls for a ban on fishing with nets to be extended – with thousands of people signing a citizen’s initiative.

The annual ban on fishing with nets expired on 1st July but lawmakers say it should continue for at least another month.

“Only 12 hours after the end of the net fishing restrictions we heard of the drowning of the first seal pup. Immediately the next day there was another one. Now already there are four seal pups lost in Saimaa. This is unsustainable” says Emma Kari, Parliamentary Group leader of the Green League.

“The Saimaa ringed seal is a unique and highly endangered animal. Net fishing restrictions during spring exist for the protection of pups born during the winter. But now it is clear it’s not enough. Restrictions do not apply to the whole of the area where seal pups are born, and they are in effect for too little time” says Kari.

Ministry to look into the issue 

On Thursday afternoon the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä (Centre) says officials will set up a working group in the autumn to look at regulations for 2021.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is committed to the growth target in the Saimaa protection strategy and none of us hopes for more deaths” says Leppä in a statement.

The Ministry is calling on local fishermen to pay close attention to the type of fishing gear they are using.

Wildlife organisations have long called for an extension to the net fishing restrictions on the Saimaa lake system and a new citizen’s initiative has already collected more than 12,000 signatures in just 24 hours, calling for a total ban on fishing with nets throughout the Saimaa lake system where the ringed seals live.

There’s less than 400 Saimaa ringed seals left in the wild, one of the few species of freshwater seals to be found anywhere. They weigh up to 90kg and eat fish found in Lake Saimaa.

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